The Normandy landings of June 6, 1944 invoke intense feelings amongst the nations who participated in Operation Overlord. Being on the site of these beaches magnifies these feelings tenfold. Emotions over took many of us especially at the Juno Beach Centre. We also visited the beaches that many years ago provided the Canadians with their pathway to liberate western Europe. We visited the famous site of the landings of the North Shore Regiment. This site is probably well known to Canadians without them realizing it. This site is where the only film survived of the actual first wave landings on D-Day. The Canadians are shown moving towards the shore and the door opens and they moved out to capture their objectives on the beach. Seeing the building in person puts the scale of the attack into perspective. It is not until we reach the buildings that are in the background of the video do you realize the ground they had to cover to begin the attack. Sheer terror and adrenaline pushed them forward on the day. The beach has changed much since the day of days but being there can give you a sense of what needed to be done to capture a part of Juno Beach.
We visited the impressive Juno Beach Centre. We begin with a picture of the group in front of the building. Next we moved to a video presentation of what may have been going through the mind of a soldier in a landing craft heading towards the beach. Their thoughts drift to home, the years of training, and if they will survive the today. The video ends and the doors open much like those of the landing craft. We moved through the museum and its exhibitions on the Canadian experience during the Second World War. We see a display on the raid on Dieppe, the training for Overlord, and the landings itself. The end of the museum is the most emotional experience of the day. We end the tour with a video that very much tugs at the heart strings. We are presented with archival footage of the bombardment and the landings. The video ends with a family contemplating what the Canadian troops sacrificed in the Normandy Campaign. The family moves on and they are followed by Canadian troops. The line of soldiers continues on and the viewer must reflect on the losses suffered by Canadians. I found the video very moving as a family member of mine died on D-Day. I became emotional when thinking about my great great uncle losing his life for the Allied cause. Many thoughts overcame me. We experienced this on June 5th and tomorrow we will partake in many ceremonies marking the day. I believe many of us, myself included, will be overcome. Emotions for those lost many years ago is strongly felt here in Normandy. I can only hope these emotions remain and the troops who are lost are remembered for their sacrifice. Commercialization threatens this legacy and we must not this happen.